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A Passionate Life.... By Anne Lenehan /Page 8

The Challenger accident on January 28, 1986 led to the temporary suspension of space shuttle missions while investigators probed the likely causes of the catastrophe involving STS-51L which saw the loss of seven crew members during launch. As with the Apollo 1 tragedy, the loss was felt keenly throughout the space community. And Story, along with other members of the astronaut office, lost seven friends.

"The last time I saw each one of them face to face, I carried that memory with me."

In his journal just prior to his next mission, STS-33, Story wrote: "I am clearly frightened, shell-shocked by launching a shuttle. I have had to live with this nightmare since the concept was fired up in 1972. Death is stalking everywhere .....We are now number 3 in line to go August 10. America wants a risk free life - if something goes wrong, somebody is responsible and somebody has to pay."

On November 22, 1989, Story's third mission, STS-33, began aboard the space shuttle Discovery. It was a spectacular night time launch and a classified mission for the Department of Defense. The mission again concluded at Edwards Air Force Base in California, landing on November 27. For this mission he joined crew members Fred Gregory, John Blaha, Kathryn Thornton, and Sonny Carter.

By this time, Story had begun his formal studies of the humanities and was well on his way to writing about his space experiences through short narratives and poetry. The night before launch, Story, together with Kathryn Thornton and Sonny Carter, made a trip to the launch pad at 3am and surprised the guards and workers who greeted them with enthusiasm. In his journal he wrote:

"A primitive, primal experience to never be forgotten - welcomed by everybody. That machine looming in the lights. Jupiter overhead... a crescent moon on the ocean horizon. The fog moving in and out over Discovery - many photos... Gantry lights, Discovery and us in the lights. What exuberant exhilaration! What beauty and power."

In 1991, Story participated in another Department of Defense mission - STS-44. He flew with fellow crew members Fred Gregory, Tom Henricks, Jim Voss and Mario Runco.


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